This week, I used the Three Word Wednesday prompts to spark an idea for a new novel:
Aunt Mildred took a sip of herbal tea, added another spoonful of honey and waited for her reaction.
Jenny sat and tried to look concerned. Be kind. You promised your mother.
“I have pancreatic cancer.” She smiled smugly. “It’s fatal, you know. I’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.”
Jenny resisted the impulse to blink rapidly.
“When was it diagnosed?”
“Last night. I watched this show on TV that explained all the symptoms.” She waved a slip of paper. “I wrote them down. Fatigue, back pain, nausea . . .”
“Those could be symptoms of many things, Aunt Mildred.” She watched as her aunt devoured a second shortbread cookie.
“How long have you been feeling nauseous?”
“Quite a while. It comes and goes, you know. I have to eat when I can. Keep my strength up.” She reached for another cookie. “I’ve made an appointment with Dr. Carson. We should leave soon.”
“You have an appointment now?”
“In a half hour.”
“I came here on my lunch hour, Aunt Mildred. I have to go back to work.”
“I’m dying and you’re going back to work.”
“I’ll take you to the doctor, but not today. See if you can make an appointment for Thursday.”
“As if I’ll still be here on Thursday. Your mother would have understood.”
“My mother wanted to live. She fought hard and she never complained. Why are you so intent on dying?”
Her aunt’s face crumpled and she instantly regretted her outbreak. She put her arms around her aunt and kissed her dampened cheek.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Mildred. I know you miss her too. I wish I could stay, but I can’t skip this meeting. I’ll call you tonight.”
Jenny berated herself on the drive back to the office. Aunt Mildred was lonely. She’d lost her husband and her sister in the last three years. Mom had also been her closest friend and the hypochondria had escalated since her death. Aunt Mildred didn’t need a doctor, she needed some attention. Jenny resolved to do better. She’d call her every day and find occasions to get her out of the house. Take her to dinner or a movie. She’d do that tonight. Aunt Mildred loved those Chinese buffets.
Mandatory meetings were usually long and senseless. This one was no exception. Even Chinese with Aunt Mildred would be more exciting. She finally made her escape and headed back across town. An early dinner, then she would have the rest of the evening to herself. She smiled at the prospect.
“How’s that working for you?” Dr. Phil shouted from the living room.
She glanced at her watch and groaned. The show wasn’t over for another thirty minutes. Aunt Mildred would never desert Dr. Phil, not even for Chinese. She envisioned another chunk of precious time floating away. It took a minute for the empty chair to register. Another before she saw the lifeless form next to it, one hand clutching her throat and the other clenching a crumbling shortbread cookie.
The crowd howled as Dr. Phil screamed again.
“How’s that working for you?”
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